I can snap PHOTOS of beloved mementos, and keepsakes (snap photos of family photos in frames, for example!) as I pack lifelong bulky treasures away into boxes, for storage that will go on for future months or years. These photos I can keep with me, on my phone or computer.
It’s a little way of easing the processes of transition. Another little thing I’m doing to manage my stress level right now as we get ready to move continents is I’ve written a few of my many favorite Names of God, found in the Bible, out in marker on colored slips of paper and have taped them all over the apartment, in places where I spend time. Above the kitchen sink. Beside my “desk” table. In the living room. “Inspirer”. “Healer”. “Nourisher”. “Faithful”. “Slow-to-Anger”. “Peace”. “God-with-me (Emanuel)” .When my eyes fall on these little labels my mind and emotions are led into worship, thanksgiving and prayer, for a few seconds each time. “Kind”. “Defender”. Ass I move around in the apartment sorting, cleaning and packing, I breathe, and I say thank you. “Queller-of-storms”. “Desire”. “Satisfier”.
I know that MANY PEOPLE face MUCH transition in modern-day life in our world, for a huge variety of different reasons. There are “transitions” on many different levels. It’s not just moving house, it’s not just traveling, and it’s not just me. I hope these two little ideas help somebody else to deal with transition in their life, today, with less stress, the way the little ideas and practices are helping me. We’re companioning each other in this day, which also reduces stress…
” I’m sitting down at the picnic table in the backyard – the sun is late afternoon – filtering down on me through the leaves of the mango trees above my head. The birds are having a symphony above me, twittering and singing and chirping at the top of their voices.
Rusty (the kitty, now with two kittens) has followed me down here and is in the process of rubbing her fur against my pen – which doesn’t work too well when your’e(sic) trying to write!
It is SO beautiful down here, quiet, filled with God. That is something I really miss in Kinshasa; Kinshasa with the trucks ROARING past the hostel, literally shaking it, the horns honking, people yelling, and loneliness. In the midst of over a million people, loneliness.
I don’t think I ever feel lonely here, really, and yet I am alone so much of the time. Probably because I’m right in the middle of my family here.
Back to some sharing from an old notebook when I was 16 years old and “expatriate teen in West Africa” was “who I was”.
Abut this picture: The bottom book is my baby book, kept by Mom until recently, and, the top “book”, a humble old green graph paper only “cahier” I remember Mom giving me, from her notebook stash, when I went to her and asked her if she had an old notebook that I could write in.
FROM MY EARLIEST JOURNALS, WHEN I WAS SIXTEEN:
June 20, 1973. (I was home in Cameroun, from the Congo, on summer vacation)”Last night I told Mom all about S. (a boy I had a crush on, at school in the Congo) and it was an unexpected relief to get it all out to someone who would be able to view it from an objective viewpoint. What can I do except wait and pray? – But that is about the hardest thing TO do. Somehow, God is going to work it out, the very best way. (this boy never did end up “liking me” at all, in the next couple years or at any time)
I never thought I’d REALLY miss TASOK for the three months of summer vacation, but I am. It is so great to have so many beautiful people (note, now, from myself – “beautiful people” is a phrase we kids at TASOK tended to use a lot, in the seventies !) , friends, around you all the time.
Anytime you want to, almost, you can go talk to somebody, or goof off and act like a spazz, or just go and be quiet and listen to music or something.
It has bothered me some that I didn’t want to come home worse than I did, and now that I am home I miss it at TASOK – it is like MPH (my boarding hostel) and TASOK (my school – The American School of Kinshasa) have become a real home to me.
But, that’s natural when you grow up – you always grow apart from “home”. You make your own life, and, when your(sic)going to a boarding school or something, often it’s COMPLETELY your own. In other words, you are what you make yourself when you’re at a place like TASOK with no brothers and sisters.
Then you come home, full of independence and pride in yourself, convinced that you’ve changed for the better an awful lot, that you’ll be pretty cool at home now. But when you’re home you suddenly realize you’re not so cool after all but regarded just the same by your parents pretty much and by your brothers and sisters and all the other people on the station and – your balloon deflates! You’re fighting with your sister and taking the head off your little brother and lazing around doing nothing and making no use of yourself at all!
Oh well, I guess that’s just part of coming home! “
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His Law he meditates, day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season, and whose leaf does not wither. “
When I was seven and in boarding school in The Dorm, the dorm parents would have picnics every friday evening, outside, for all of us 49 dorm kids. There would be dessert for the meal which, during the weekdays, there was not. After these outdoor picnics, oftentimes we would gather in the Dorm living room for games and songs and, every once in a long while, a reel-to-reel movie. I saw “Lawrence of Arabia” that way – bored to tears – I thought that movie would never end!
But one weekend it was different. We got called into the living room on Saturday evening, instead of Friday, and our dorm parents were sober-faced.
They told us that, down the road, in the Congo, many outreachers were being taken hostage and were in danger of being killed, by a group of people called the Simba Army. They said that a medical doctor outreacher, whose name was Dr. Paul White, had been murdered a few days before – the telegram had just come telling the horrible news. Other people were getting killed as well. We 49 kids were very sad. We all were asked by our dorm parents to bow our heads and join in prayer for the safety and the rescue of all of our fellow outreachers that had not yet gotten killed, and all of their children, around our own ages, a hop, skip and a jump down the roads from Elat, Cameroun where we sat in our Dorm.
We did that.
Several years later, when I was a teenager, I found myself in another dorm IN the Congo, and many of my best friends were the very children, now turned teenagers also, for whom we had prayed that Saturday evening at Elat. Now, forty years later, many of us former children have found each other and are in contact once again with one another, sharing our continuing stories and lives, one with another. I hope some of us are still praying one for another, as well.
Six years old, my whole remembered world France and Sakbayeme, makabo soup with liquid Maggi sprinkled on top for dinner, hot boiled eggs in Mom’s 50s’style, individualized breakfast egg cups (it was 1963), and climbing in the guava trees with my African playmates.
We’d stepped off the airplane in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and been driven home to Grandma’s house, where we would live for the first few weeks of my parents’ first home assignment, from Africa.
Got out of the car, Grandma walks down the porch steps and out over the grass, past the hollyhocks (hock dollies to my blonde baby sister, later) approaches and gives me a hug! Her long, thin, shiny, pure bluish-white hair is pulled up on top of her head in a puffed-out tiny knot, 20’s suffragette-style. She has a crisp, ironed cotton button-down dress. She smells like fresh laundry.
There’s a pretty mama cat on the broken porch step with two half-grown kittens nearby, strolling and watching ; my sister and I rush up to them and start talking to and petting; Dad cautions us to be careful, they might bite, he says.
We all move slowly up to the porch, little by little, Mom and Dad and Grandma talking the whole way and us three little kids darting excitedly around, touching things, but staying close. In through the creaky old screen door, the small country kitchen with even smaller scullery, from almost a hundred years ago even at that time, beckons. Mom is lingering a minute on the porch, exclaiming over the fragrance and looks of the blossom-laden lilac bushes; Dad is wrestling our suitcases in to the house. Grandma is giving me another hug, and exclaiming over what she is calling my “beautiful ‘shiny copper penney’ HAIR.” I am feeling so loved, so content, and so excited about our new home with my GRANDMA.
I want to finish the account of the trip from school in Congo home to Cameroun that June. We were a fifteen-year-old, a sixteen-year-old, and a seventeen-year-old, all foreigners. The one who got sick later on turned out to have suffered a bad malaria attack. His fever spiked so high, within short hours that afternoon of the trip, that we, the other two, actually feared he was going to lapse unconscious on us in the Douala airport or in the rattletrap taxi. He had a splitting headache, he quickly became dehydrated and his teeth chattered audibly as his whole body shook and shivered.
There was no telephone, there was no ambulance and we had no acquaintances in that city.
J.’s other schoolmate, the 17-year-old boy, and I found an obscure telegraph office in a back corner of that rickety airport and, scraping together cash from our wallets, we sent off a typed telegram on a paper-thin pink form saying, “J super sick stop Williams not home stop please advise stop.”
We decided to have the 17-year-old use some more of our pooled, limited cash to take another taxi ride back to the Williams’ house and see if they’d gotten home, which he did, but after another hour he returned. No such luck.
We sat at the chipped formica restaurant table upstair. I went to the restaurant counter and asked to borrow a bar towel. I went to the smelly dark bathroom and soaked the towel in the slow drip of water from the sink faucet, wrung it out, and returned and draped it over the face of J., to try to help lower his fever.
Then an announcement came over the crackling loudspeaker, in French, of course, and it said that our eight o clock p.m. flight to Yaounde was CANCELED, without explanation, and there were no more flights until the next day!
J. was in terrible shape, trembling and hot as a furnace. He’d been that way for many hours. I tried to get ice, from the bar, but they kept telling me they didn’t have any.
We prepared to stretch out in the corner on the restaurant floor to spend the night. Between the three of us we did not have enough money left to take another taxi into the city, let alone book in a hotel. I remember being incredibly tired, incredibly hot and sweaty, and the none-too-clean tile of the restaurant floor feeling cool under the side of my face!
“We will get to Douala in about 30 minutes or less – already I can feel my ears popping as we lose altitude. It seems incredible how fast and far we get to travel now. Our worlds, which we get so tied up and involved in – are so trivial, so inconsequent – compared to what God must be. And we limit Him in our lives so much, thereby missing out on peace and joy. God is so huge and beautiful – I guess we can’t even imagine Him and that’s why it’s so hard to believe in Him for me. I feel like I can never be really SURE of something I can’t see or feel; touch, I mean. Yet, if I COULD, then He wouldn’t be God anymore.
About 3:15 p.m. Douala, Cameroun airport.
Well. Here we sit, the three of us, waiting, waiting, waiting. For 8 p.m. to arrive. I HATE this sitting. If there was just something to do, it wouldn’t be half as bad! There is nothing, so, I am writing this even though I don’t especially feel like it right now.
We went to find the Williams family, in downtown Douala, as our parents had suggested we do, to help while away the time of our waiting for our connecting flight tonight to Yaounde. But the Williams were not home so we just came back to the airport. We have been taking taxis.
Just now after a drop of sweat literally FELL off my forehead on to the notebook paper on which I’m writing this, puddling the ink from my pen, I glanced up and over to the next chipped and faded formica-topped restaurant table where the boys are sitting with cokes in front of them, and saw that J.’s face is fluorescent RED and streaming with far more sweat than mine is. Uh Oh. What’s wrong?
His eyes catch mine.
I say, “What’s wrong, J.?”
Mumbling softly, and lowering his tow-headed long locks with that strong cow-lick in the middle-top of his forehead to table level, he closes his eyes and moans, “I’m SICK! I’m going to DIE!” His heavy black glasses with the thick lenses tumble sideways on his face, then off, onto the faded and greasy dark red formica of the table.
Feeling a hard knot of fear start to clench in my stomach, I rise from my chair and walk a few steps over to him. I hesitantly place my hand on his forehead -it feels as hot as an oven pre-heated to 400 degrees for the past 60 minutes! I look over to G., the eleventh grader. “What do you think we should do? He’s burning up with fever!”
Getting to the Kinshasa airport and other adventures, June 1973. God answers prayers of tenth graders! (verbatim excerpts from first journal notebook)
June 10, 1973, journal entries continued- We are three; two boys and a girl (me), two tenth graders and one eleventh grader.
What a hassle getting out of Kinshasa this morning. It was horrible, and I think it’s going to take me the two and a half months of summer vacation to recuperate! (Oh, while I’ve been writing this we have taken off, had our second breakfast of the day and are now descending toward Libreville. It’s been about an hour.) Anyways, Aunt G. got us up at 3:45 a.m. today, we got ready, said goodbyes ( me to R.), and left for the airport in the hostel combi. About halfway there, soldiers with machine guns stopped us and held us there because we didn’t have a certain paper, but after about twenty minutes they let us through. Some of them were drunk.
Well, all that made us later still when we finally did make it to the airport. After about thirty or forty minutes we got our luggage through and went on to the formalities line.
Then there was a huge mix up that held us there for at least another hour. We were not going to be able to go. Both J. and I didn’t have a particular paper and THEN……. it was discovered that J. had no visa – it had run out almost four months previously! I felt real scared, and prayed and prayed and prayed in my heart. Then, THEY LET US THROUGH!
It was a real miracle – God sure does answer prayer!
Now we have stopped for ten minutes at Libreville, and are up again, speeding north toward Douala!